Friday, March 4, 2011

someone to watch over me

Photo from here...
Recently, I was told of a widowed father who was married within one year of losing his wife. The story was told with the tones of scandal and betrayal. It was insinuated that if this poor man had truly loved his wife, he wouldn't have remarried so quickly or 'easily'.

I have heard stories such as this a few times since Jeff died. I have understood the implications of people not in our shoes that remaining single after losing your mate to death shows the outside world something of your feelings surrounding the loss of your mate.

But none of us widowed people seem to stand up very often and say, "Hold on a minute! I understand the impetus that propelled that person."

We are all too ashamed or embarassed by the memories of our own desires and hopes that finding someone to love us or fill the gap of the parent that our children/families would soothe our hearts.

I remember that before Jeff died we'd occasionally talk about what we'd do if/when the other person died. I SWORE I would never want to physically share a bed with another man. I truly believed it.

But when Jeff died, I longed to have someone hold me. I most certainly wished it could be Jeff....but since he was dead, I would cast my eyes about searching, hoping, needing the comfort that another body can provide. I would take inventory of my single male friends and wonder if they could/would protect me and my kids. If any of them would touch me and hold me and love me.

Of course, the people that I spent most of my time with wouldn't have understood this need - so I kept quiet.

But now when I speak to other widow/ers, those dark, early days are sometimes dredged up into conversation. And it seems to be pretty universal. We all long to have someone to hold us. To smooth down our hair. To love us. To watch over us.

And in the absence of the one we truly want, I am sure that occasionally the "stand-in" can fall into a small space made where the huge void developed. And maybe that is love. A new love.

I know that no one should judge this. It just is. And if it brings comfort and soothes a broken heart, who is anyone to say if it is "right" or "wrong".


  1. this post couldn't have come at a better time. I've been struggling with my own shame/guilt over these kinds of feelings and only through being brave enough to ask other widows about their experiences have I found that it's totally normal. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for talking about this. It helps to hear it from someone else.

  3. My mom has 8 brothers and sisters, so when she passed and my dad found someone else after 6 or 7 months, he got hell for it. What they don't understand is that he longed for the companionship and love she once filled him with since they were 16 years old; my mom wanted him to move forward; he needed something/someone to look forward to; he and my mom had developed more of a caregiver/patient relationship while she slowly died of cancer. There are so many factors and there's never a right time to move forward. A person's love or accusations of a lack thereof should never be questioned or thrown in his or her face. You have no idea what you'd do in the situation until you're in it. Thank you for this :-)

  4. Jackie - Thank you for the bravery and daring to say this.

    I hear it all the time. Don't even think about any of that for a year. I have heard the scathing comments about others who have dared not to follow the "script" of widowhood. Especially when it comes to love.
    I always think - they must have been so loved and so in love because despite it all - the broken and smashed heart of grief - they dare to risk it all again. It is the most courageous act - to open your heart to love again when you have lost someone you so desperately wanted to be with forever. I always said I wanted my life to be defined by one thing and that was how much I could love. My husband taught me more about that than anyone ever has.
    Why must we forgo our humanity to prove that we loved them so deeply?
    I know the best half of my life is perhaps over but. . . .I still have some life left . . . I don't want to live it without love, it is bad enough I have to live it without him.
    Before he died - he told me "find someone kind, someone who will love you - everything about you". . . at the time I thought never . . . and then he was gone and the loneliness of his physical absence has been so painful. I can be alone, that is not a problem. . . .but why do I have to be without love to prove the love I had was deep, life altering, true?

    We all need love, care, intimacy, emotional connection.

    I love my husband more than I could ever put into words . . . but I know if I am lucky enough to be loved again - I will embrace it.
    It will not be the same.
    it will not be a stand in relationship.
    It will never take his place.
    But it will, make life - this life - the only one I have
    more joyful.

    Thank you for not judging - for saying the truth. We all need love.

  5. I am a widow, 1 year 4 months, I believe each of us has the right to do what is best for ourselves. To heal at our own pace, to find someone new to love and be loved by or NOT, to cry when we want and need to, etc. Where did all these rules for widowhood come from? From people who've never been a widow/widower? I never realized until the past 16 months how many judgements, opinions, attitudes there are about people who are widowed. I'm tired of it...what about being a widow/widower says we're easy targets for people to take pot shots at? We entered in to spiritual and/or legal contracts with our spouses...that contract says "till death us do part." At that point no one has a right to judge us for what we do after this traumatic death has parted us.

  6. Nice post and so real.
    To love and be loved is wonderful. Having been loved well was wonderful! Wanting it all again seems so natural.

    Seize the moments!

  7. And this is what my next book is about. Fingers crossed that a publisher will "get it." This post will help, I have no doubt. Thanks Jackie!

  8. Where did all the "rules" for widowhood come from? Mostly from people who have never been directly affected by it. Beautifully said Jackie.

  9. Very honest post ... it made me do some thinking of my own. I'm only 5 months out, it was a long, very hard cancer battle, I'm closing in on 60 and was married 41 years. So I've said I don't plan to date and I'm content to spend the rest of my days alone. It wasn't my intention to cast judgment on others who choose to find love again, but perhaps my comments may have made others feel that way. I'm sorry for that. It's hard enough to get through this dealing with those who don't understand because they haven't walked in our shoes, we sure don't need to turn on ourselves.

    I agree with Theanne and Baron's comment ... where did all these rules come from?

  10. Thanks for sharing what I have been thinking. Widowed for 1 year and 1 month. I want friendship, companionship and love eventually. Physical contact with hugs and possibly more will happen with the right person.

  11. Amen to this, Jackie.

    Not long before Matt died, one of my very dear aunts passed away from a long battle with lung cancer. My uncle (who I've always loved and respected immensely) became involved in a relationship very soon after and remarried quickly and took a LOT of heat from close family and friends. I'm SO relieved that I wasn't one of those who passed judgment. Little did my uncle know how short his life after his wife's death was going to be. I'm glad he didn't die lonely and that he made the most of his time. And if I was to be one of those who passed judgment on him, I would have been a hypocrite because I needed comfort soon after the death of the love of my life. You don't know how you will react or what you will do when you're in those shoes... No one has the right to judge.

  12. I am sitting here wanting to share my own story of finding love again, but I am still afraid of being so harshly judged. People have said,"you are not ready" "it is too soon"

    Yet, I have miraculously found someone who has been there for me, my number one support. The one I call with good and bad news, the one who calls me after my bereavement classes and asks how I am. The one who comes and takes my kids skiing, works on school projects with them, plays with them and gives them more than anyone else in my circle of friends or family have been able to give them.

    I am grateful that I have this person, someone who cares about us, and really does love us. Our lives were shattered and this person is here, helping me pick up the pieces. From stacking the firewood and cleaning chimneys to playing princess dolls and nerf guns.

    But we are also very careful, it may be too soon for the kids to know what is really happening between us, neither one of us feels like this at all diminishes what I felt for my spouse and we both know I have things I will have to deal with, missing my spouse and wishing my kids were not missing out on having two parents. Our hearts are still broken and the sadness is so overwhelming, but there is someone who calls me everyday and asks about my day.

    I don't understand why this has happened to the kids and me, I don't know why we have had a bomb tossed into our lives, however, somehow, this incredible person came along and has extended a hand. I don't think it is wrong that I chose to reach out and take that hand.

    I am so happy to know that my situation is not so uncommon among us.

  13. Jackie, People who judge other peoples love like that are just dead wrong. My husband showed me such unconditional love when, he told me "to find someone else to love after he was gone, because I was too loving to be alone the rest of my young life," I cried when he said it-but more bacause it just proved to me how much he truly loved me and wanted me to be happy. I was lucky to have him say this, others lose their loves so suddenly they do not get this. Even after he died, I felt like he was whispering in my ear " you can't love a dead man"- even when I was not ready for it. Love is not about how long you can suffer, but how much you can give back to others. I am trying to find someone to watch over me, since I am the only one watching over my children.

  14. My husband was just 4 and 1/2 months out when we met and 10 months when we married. We've been together four years. I don't think I am a "stand in" or take up just a "small space in a huge void" either. I am as important and as loved as his first wife was.

    It's normal to miss and it's normal to fall in love again. It's no different than the first time. It's not daring or courageous. You met, connect and fall in love. It's really kind of simple, but I do agree with the idea that one has to be open to it or it won't happen.

    And judging is just what people do when they are wrapped in their own worldview, but no one can define your life but you unless you allow them to.

  15. Early on, I couldn't fathom being with another man. However, @ approximately 1.5 years out and the 30s swiftly moving along, I'm craving companionship . I don't want to be alone the rest of my life. My husband died. I didn't.

    Everyone has advice. The same people who tell you to "get over it" are the same people who talk badly about you when you do accept a date.

    I want to live again.

  16. Great post Jackie. Thanks so much, Maureen

  17. It's only been 4 months and I am in my early 60's. I cannot even imagine taking a chance on ever having to bury another person. Ever. But, I do know I would sell my soul to have someone hug me again. Hug me like I was hugged for so many years. At the kitchen sink doing dishes, just everyday stuff. It's a lonely place and I am so tired of everyone measuring my sadness and grief I could scream my head off.

  18. Thank you for being so honest and making me feel better about me and my right to be loved again. You are my inspiration today, and I needed it so.

  19. I've been told those who were the happiest in their marriage are most likely to remember that love and look for another to share with, even to remarry. Your loved one would wish you joy--and so do I.

  20. I so agree with Annie. I fell in love with a widower,and he with me, fairly soon after his wife passed. We have been together 2 1/2 years now. Because we live in a small town we, initially, became the town gossip..." how could he be with her so quickly", etc. But you know what? Being with me has in no way diminished the love he had/has for his first wife. I am a different person, our love is different. That is the wonderful thing about our heart. It has such a huge capacity for love. He has not forgotten ( and never will) her or how special their love was for each other. But he HAS allowed himself to move forward and be happy and find love again. To have had one great love is awesome! To get a second chance with a new great love...even better.There are many wonderful people out there with lots of love to give. It may not be exactly like your first, but it can still be wonderful.

  21. Missing and loving again...
    I did not know how much I missed being touch and the feel of holding hands with another man..My body ached for the tactile stimulation of a man. It actually scared me to know that I missed this kind of connection. We all need to have someone in our lives and to love someone even if it's for a minute or years. I am grateful to know that I can still love someone else. I have been guilty of trying to control how much love I would give out but decided one day that I would just let go of this control and just love. I am so proud of myself because I was capable of this kind of emotion again. It lasted for a minute but I am still happy for the experience of it. Although I missed this man for 2 weeks after the parting. I was actually smiling and feeling good too because "I LOVED AGAIN!"

  22. It seems you hit a nerve here Jackie!

  23. Yes! I seems I have hit a nerve. I will say that I didn't mean this post to be about love. It was meant to be about the need/want to be touched after losing your spouse...and the guilt that that often entails. I am sure that no matter when you fall in love after losing your initial mate, it is still love. BUT often, the person that you "use" to fill the gap in the need to be touched is NOT the person who you do eventually love. I know that there are people who are lucky enough to find this person earlier than others. But I am not one of those people. So I wrote it with my perspective in mind. Sorry for offending. As I said in the post, who is anyone to judge? I was certainly NOT judging anything or anyone. My love to you all! :)